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Hollow Kingdom

Chapter Text

In this story "Dire" is the word used for "Mutants" and magic is much more difficult to master than people think.

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The tower was bright, the sun’s rays cut through the usual darkness through the tall and narrow windows. The Circle seemed to shed its usual dreary grey skin as mages went about their usual chores and classes. It reminded Leonardo a lot more of the Chantry’s orphanage than what he had been taught in training. At least, this Circle did, the last one he had been assigned to previously was lacking in many things and the Head Enchanter was more interested in self pursuit of knowledge than his people’s well being. It made it much harder for the Templars to keep order when there was barely a thread of it. When he had gotten his transfer to Lake Calenhad it was almost a Maker sent mercy. The mages of the previous Circle had tried his patience. He had been forced to do his Maker appointed duty to bind and shackle the ones that were much too unruly. He had to join in hunts to retrieve runaways. Finding them scared and huddled under threadbare blankets as if children. It didn’t matter. He had to take them back. He always took them back, no matter how much they pleaded or cried. There were a few that he had to draw his blades against. Maleficar, blood mages, that had hidden themselves in the midst of the good people that didn’t know any better only to twist their minds with poisonous darkness.

He could handle that. Handle the execution of a Maleficar, handle bringing others back that would kick and scream. What he didn’t like was participating in the Harrowings. Watching their bodies twist, flesh bubble like an overcooked stew pot as they formed into an Abomination. Striking them down would never be a point of pride for him, not like other Templars. Then… there were the Tranquil. There were many regrets held deep within his heart when it came to the men and women he had to assist in making Tranquil. Some begged for it to happen so they would not have to deal with the Harrowing, others simply couldn’t be restrained but were not dangerous enough to justify their death. It was a sad thing to endure, to see happen to mages he dared to even call friend. He had learned quickly that getting close to a mage was a bad thing. Having to see a dear friend with hollow eyes, have them no longer able to even feel the camaraderie of friendship. It was the most pain he had ever had to live through.

That was in the past though. The past was a wash of dark and light from one moment to another. Now, he was here, in the Circle Tower.

Here, he had been officially on duty for over three months and everything seemed to run as smooth as Orlesian silk. No fights. No screams. No escape attempts.

There was structure here. There were set times for classes, meals, bed, and his two most favorite parts; attending the Chant and practice. He had to keep himself focused, sharp in spirit, body, and mind. Working with his weapons helped with his body, practicing his techniques of binding kept his mind honed, attending the chant kept him focused on the duty the Maker had given him.

In his last Circle it was only himself and a handful of others that would sit on rickety benches that were meant to be pews. He would end up plucking slivers of wood out of his robes after every service, but it was worth it to hear Andraste’s word. Here, everyone attended, they had to split the sermon into two different times as not everyone could fit into the chapel at once. It warmed his heart to know that these mages actually wanted to better themselves. They wanted to be good people and not slaves to their magic.

This was a much welcomed difference.

He took in a deep breath as he slowly walked down the aisles of the library as he allowed his mind to muse over the differences of past and present. His armor clad hands were resting behind his back. It was a beautiful library. Shelves so tall they needed special ladders to reach the tops. Scrolls were placed in carefully constructed bins that were ornately decorated and polished with fine oils. Podiums held massive tombs open, welcoming anyone to come and partake of their knowledge. There were large tables, lined with benches where a few mages sat, studying. An elf looked up as Leonardo slowly passed by. He smiled with a small wave. Leo returned the smile with a slight bow before continuing on.

Yes, he liked this place. Everyone was much more pleasant. There were even a few Dire. He had only come into contact with a few. Harmond, the wolf, scared him at first. Leo wouldn’t really admit it but he had thought the Dire was a werewolf at first until he took in the robes and the eye glass he held up to one eye. In the last Circle there had been only himself. The odd looks he had to suffer weighed on him. He had to suffer more work than was his own just to prove that he was a capable Templar in the eyes of the Humans. Here, though, he felt much more comfortable, especially when he saw… the other… Leonardo slowed his pace when he caught sight of the one he had been thinking of. Tucked away in a deep part of the library, sitting on the floor with his shell up against the bookshelf. Haphazard columns of books were stacked around him as he slowly turned the page of the one he was currently reading. A few scrolls were completely unravelled by his bent knees. Crude blank leafs of paper were next to him that he was forced to use a piece of charcoal to write with. Most likely forgot his ink pot and quill once more. Now that Leonardo thought about it, he had only seen the mage use a quill a handful of times and that was only when he was transcribing.

Such odd, yet unique behavior.

Hazel eyes slowly blinked, olive colored brow was furrowed in concentration. The black feather pauldrons were just as mundane as his brown coat and gray tunic. Dirty black trousers had holes in the fabric showing a desperate need of repair, almost as much as his black boots. The only thing that he wore that was of any quality was the purple sash around his waist. If Leonardo remembered correctly, the shade was called Anderfels Purple due to a rare flower that grew there, it was the only thing could yield such a soft yet rich color.

From what he had heard, this person was the most troublesome. There was a record of escape attempts from all the previous Circles he had been in. He wouldn’t tell anyone his real name so he had simply been given an Orlesian name as most Dire turtles come from that region. It was a similar reason to his own name, though, he was simply an orphan that could only remember the Chantry.

Leonardo had been able to dig up some information on Donatello. He was from the Anderfels. He was a small child to his first Circle. That Circle had shut down and the mages had been shuffled into other Circles. The second one he had been in he had learned healing magic. In fact, it was the only magic he knew. It was because of how he excelled that he was requested by the Bann of Rainesfere to be moved for further studies. Donatello had a rather promising future. If he could pass his Harrowing and continue his healing practice he would then be considered to move into Denerim to be a healer at either the Chantry or even the Royal Palace. It was an opportunity that allowed more freedoms and rights than most other jobs for mages. He had overheard some jealous whispers from other mages to gain some of this information.

He honestly would have enjoyed to have been told this in first person but he never really had the time to interact with the mage. When he did he had a hard time finding the Dire. Donatello had certainly proved himself to be elusive but not dangerous as the rumors had said. If he had missed a class, Leonardo would try to find him only to be pleasantly surprised by another templar already escorting a glum looking turtle down the hallway. He didn’t put much thought into it as everyone else seemed to not second guess. The most common thing he heard was that Donatello would be so focused in his studies that he lost track of time. He apparently was a very intellectual individual, enjoying the company of paper and ink than that of Maker given flesh and blood. Leonardo knew that it wasn’t unheard of. There were people back in the Chantry orphanage that were like that.

Leo had always wanted to talk to Donatello. It wasn’t every day he got to see another turtle and it rather lifted his spirits to see one, mage or no. Seeing as he was on a light duty at the moment it was the perfect opportunity to do what he had wanted to do since the first time he had laid eyes on the terrapin.

Formally introduce himself.

“Pardon me,” Leonardo kept his voice low as he spoke up.

The mage’s expression scrunched up into a mild irritation. Obviously interrupting his concentration was not exactly welcomed. That would explain the often grumpy look from the past when a Templar would escort him to class. Leonardo would keep that in mind.

“I’m sorry to interrupt you, but… I never have had the chance to formally meet you. My name is-”

“Leonardo, I am aware.” Donatello shifted everything he had been working on so he could turn his shell towards the templar. “As I am aware that you know my name as well.”

Leo’s beak scrunched up. That was a bit rude.

“Yes, well… I heard you are from the Anderfels, yes? I-”

“Let me stop you right there. Before we get into all of this I know your family came from Orlais, you only know this because you wear your father’s armor. You were given an Orlesian name for that reason alone. You grew up in the Chantry’s orphanage with only stories of how you were found on the step. You’ve been trained as a templar in order to feel some sort of family history and you have the highest marks in your class. You’ve been shifted around from Circle to Circle because of your ability to relate and calm mages,” Donatello rolled his eyes, irritated. The rest came out sarcastic, “You’re such a good person and so very talented, thus why they allow you to wear Orlesian Blue and silver robes instead of the typical reds and golds. You’re allowed your unique weapons because of your combatant skills are hard to beat. Top notches for you.”

Leo’s eyes grew wide then narrowed into a cautious gaze. This mage seemed to know a lot about him. It would seem that he was good at not only healing magic but information gathering as well.

“That’s… most impressive.”

Donatello slammed the book in his hands shut. He dropped it to the floor and stood up. As he did Leo noticed a tear in the seam of Donatello’s trousers that was high up on the leg, high enough to see his tail before he straighten his coat to hide it. He felt a small heat creep up to his cheeks at seeing something as private as a turtle’s tail.

He pushed his embarrassment to the side and placed his mind where it should be; with concern. The mage was wearing nothing but rags. The others in the circle at least had robes that were well maintained. Leo would have to look into getting him something better to wear. After all, it was a templar’s job to care for mages.

His concern was raised even more when the olive skinned turtle turned around, eyes hard, hateful. His cheek had a blossoming bruise that was dark and angry. One of his hazel eyes was squinted, slightly bloodshot. It looked as if he had been struck very hard and recently.

“I’m not in this library to impress. I am here to be left alone. I appreciate the desire to get to know another Dire, especially one of your own kind and no offence but you are a templar and I am a mage. We have very little in common. If you need more from me then I shall greet you in the halls. There is no reason for us to share words or bond or anything. Now, unless you have plans for me, I suggest you leave me be.”

The templar swallowed, his previous good mood was now soundly slaughtered. Still, he had been the one to interrupt. Seeing the state of Donatello’s clothing, how he had a tear in the seat of his trousers, he could see the edge of a hole in his boots that was only covered by a tied on cloth, his face was injured; It made it understandable why he was in no mood for pleasantries.

“Please go to the infirmary soon as you can, Donatello.” Leo said softly.

He could feel that hateful glare on him as he turned and left. It would bother him for the rest of the day.

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It was a few days after his encounter with Donatello that Leonardo had run into him once more. The mage had a stone like feature that made it hard to tell what he was thinking. He no longer had the welt on his face, and from across the hall, Leo believed that his eye was doing well. As if sensing his thoughts, hazel eyes turned from looking down the hallway over to him. His expression didn’t change as he leaned back against the stone wall, arms folded over his chest. The templar blinked a few times, unsure if the mage was silently challenging him or not. Another mage came by, Donatello pushed himself off of the wall and fell into step. The elf started talking while Donatello’s eyes remained on Leonardo for as long as he could before turning away. All Leo could think was, “Strange.”

The next time he got to interact with Donatello was with the common occurrence of another missed class. He was asked to go find the wayward mage and bring him in after all, it was getting close to Donatello’s Harrowing and he needed to be as well informed about the Fade as possible.

The first place he checked was the library. When he came up empty handed he went to the canteen, kitchens, Chantry chapel. Nothing. Starting to get worried about the prospect of having a runaway he headed for the dormitories to find a templar already with Donatello. The Dire’s arm was held up high as he was pulled at an awkward angle. His expression was neutral as he wiped blood away from his nose with the back of his free hand. His eyes caught Leonardo’s once more, lingering on him as he was pulled past. The mage stumbled, his uncoordinated weight pulled the one holding him down as he went to the floor.

“Why you-” The templar raised his hand up high, poised to back hand Donatello. The olive turtle squeezed his eyes shut waiting for the impact.

“Hold!” Leonardo barked.

The human kept a hold of Donatello’s arm though he did lower his assaulting hand. “What do you want?”

“He only tripped,” Leonardo came up to them. “Let him walk on his own two feet.”

“He was being obstinate and disobedient, refusing to go to class.”

“That doesn’t mean you get the right to beat him into submission.” The templar Dire’s eyes were hard and cold. “The order dictates that mages are to be shepard, not beaten.”

“What are you, some mage lover?”

“I’m a devout Andrastrian, as you should be.” Leo glared. “Now let him go, or must I report you, Kallen?”

The human let out a scoffing sound. He gave Donatello’s arm one last hard jerk, a painful squeeze so hard the clawed tips of his gauntlet fingers dug into flesh before roughly letting go. He straightened out his shoulders and walked away, chin held high as if he was proud of what he had done. Leonardo scowled. He hated it when people of power took advantage of their position. Just because they were templars that were trained to keep mages from harming others, it didn’t mean that it gave them license to harm perfectly harmless ones. He would report him regardless. Especially seeing small red stains welling up from where he had clutched at Donatello’s arm.

He made sure that Kallen was a good distance away before offering his hand to the dire on the floor.

“How badly harmed are you?”

Donatello didn’t take the offered hand. He pushed himself up onto his feet, a little unsteady at first but almost falling down again when he violently tried to back away from Leonardo’s steadying hands.

“Don’t touch me.”

Leo frowned. He waited until the mage was fully on his feet before he raised his hand.

“Donatello, I am going to touch your face. I am only inspecting.”

He reached out, slowly. He watched at the other flinched away from his touch but eventually allowed him to put his hand to cheek. His gauntlet covered thumb gently tucked under chin and lifted so he could get a good look at the swelling around the other’s beak. There was also another blossoming bruise over his jaw and what looked like small round bruises on his neck. He’s seen this before, on other mages in his previous circle. Unfortunately, his hands were tied. He had to be of a high rank in order to do anything about it, he can at least take it to the Knight-Commander or even the Knight-Captain. He would even bring up the fact that Donatello was a mage of interest to the Bann if he had to.

He really hated men like Kallen.

“Come, let’s take you to the infirmary.” He let his hand drop in favor of being held out to usher the other with him.